I find that I can produce a result I am happy with as long as I am copying someone else's painting or illustration.  Is this normal for beginners?  Is copying a normal step in the learning process?  When I try to create a painting without a photo reference it just looks like my kindergartener did it.  I tell myself that copying is a natural part of any kind of learning process, be it art or otherwise.  What do you think?

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As long as it's for your private collection then I personally don't see anything wrong in copying for practice.  Obviously if you were to start selling copies that might be a little different!  To try and move on from straight copying perhaps you could find a subject similar to a painting/illustration you have already copied and try to create your own in a similar style but adding your own touches.  This should help you gradually move onto doing your own stuff from scratch.



Thanks, Lou.  That is a good suggestion.  Right now I feel completely lost if I don't have something to look at.  I've been trying to do some abstracts here lately to help with feeling more confident with my originality. After all, they don't really have to look like anything!
You must start somewhere -- copying is a way to learn -- you need to build your own visual library -- as an example, you would like to draw a tree -- copy one you like -- then, find several examples of trees you would enjoy drawing -- begin to think about shape / form -- bark, limbs -- it sounds wierd at first -- become the tree -- what do I look like -- how do I feel -- you begin to build your own visual library -- your own tree !!! -- good luck -- have a great art day. JK

Starr, I'm the same.  If I copy a drawing it doesnt look too bad. If I go step by step by following a youtube video or a book, again it isnt too bad.  But when I try to do something from memory it looks like a child's work.  Although having said that I did copy a still life from a book the other day and it was all out of perspective and the rendering was terrible lol. Maybe I was rushing or having a tired day.... Thank you to the others for your suggestions. I like the idea of becoming the object you are painting, becoming one with it,  I try to do that with the medium I'm using and hope for the best.lol


When I was taught figure drawing (many years ago!) my teacher taught me to use the pencil to measure proportions.  I also use this technique on still life.


I hold my arm out straight in front of me with the pencil upright in my clenched fist.  I then align the pencil with the top of the person/figure/object and place my thumb on the pencil at key points. Once I've noted what proportions of the pencil each part takes up, I proportion my page out similarly.  It's a very rough guide but can be useful.  


Hopefully that makes sense but here is a guide I found also.




Another tip is to just keep drawing and keeping on trying.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone and and keep trying to draw original pictures and tell yourself it's ok if it doesn't work out.  So long as you learn something new each time you do it, it will have been a worthwhile exercise.  Make sure you have a big supply of paper - I use cheap recycled paper for sketching and experimenting which means I don't worry about cost or the environment so much when I make mistakes.
Copying. Alright in the beginning or maybe even later on in one's art career. Have you been to a national museum and seen an artist painting an exact painting that of one of the great art masters has done? Generally it is to study the many brush strokes, colors used, lighting of how the master artist completed their artwork. Copying is to learn an art technique to enhance ones own artist abilities. Use copying for learning, exploring and achieving greater art goals but be careful not to become a slave to it.  


  Copying is good for learning. It really do help in improving your skills because when we copy an object, we have this tendency to strive for perfection... on every inch of it. training wise it is very helpful specially for eye/hand coordination. Eventually we should graduate to "drawing it as we see it". Also, it is not easy to draw from ones imagination. Most of the times when I do attempt this I usually use music to get my  creative juice flowing. There will be imperfections no matter what the outcome is so just try to live with it.  Is it ok to copy? yes, when you're trying to improve your skills.  

Meg, thank you so much for your response.  It is enormously useful.  From now on, I will ask myself those questions.  I think I have probably been intuitively doing it already, but I will do it consciously from now on.  You are so right about the lighting being the most difficult thing to achieve on your own.  My original paintings tend to look very flat and one dimensional.  The Harvest Moon picture I did is the first semi-successful painting I have done on my own.  I worked hard at trying to figure out where the moon's shadow would fall if I was standing out in that field.  I put highlights on the tree and its limbs and then painted them out again.  I had a hard time deciding where the highlights and shadows on the largest pumpkin in the foreground should be.  My husband said that all the shadows should match, but I thought it would depend on where the viewer was 'standing.'  In the end, I went with what I thought was best (I hardly ever listen to him anyway, LOL)  Do you think I got it right?  Or is he correct in that all the shadows would be on the same side?
I think if you are copying your own photos that is ok. Many artists use photos as a reference.  I did that of an iris and lilly that I photographed.  They are not exactly as the photo, but pretty close.  Eventually, you can try and make your objects/subjects more abstract.  If you are able to copy well, then you are obviously capable of observation and eventually you will be able to use this information into something original.  I can pretty much draw tulips and lillies in my sleep as I have painted them so many times and in so many ways in different medium.  Good luck with it all. :)

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